~~I was glad to finally spend some time with Bryce before he was assigned to a Seal team. This team became his unit, and he’d trained with them for a few months before their actual deployment. I tried not to think of him getting deployed. So I just spent my time with Bryce, making memories.
We finally went to visit his family since we thought the meeting was way past due. His mom was a very sweet and kind woman. She had a very gentle personality which made it easy for me to talk to her. His dad was a stern yet wise man. He had a very humble way of carrying himself which made me respect him. The couple was good looking as well. I could see where Bryce got his good looks from. I also met Bryce’s older brother, Alex and his younger sister, Victoria. Alex was a year older than Bryce’s twenty four, and he was in the Army. Victoria was two years younger than Bryce, and she was in the Air Force. They were born and bred military; the core values of the armed forces coursing through their blood. It was surprising how they took me in so well. Then again, Bryce had told them all about me. I wasn’t even aware that he did, but I was glad to have met them anyway.
Then, a few days later, we went to Florida so that I could introduce him to my family. My mom and younger sister, Stephanie took him in with open arms as well. My dad had died a few years ago due to a heart attack. My mom was a kindergarten teacher, and she loved her job a lot. Stephanie was three years younger than my twenty two, and she was trying to get into Stanford. She was always smart for her age, and I encouraged her to always try her best. When I told my mom and Stephanie about Bryce, they were excited. When they learned about Bryce’s occupation, they we were worried for the both of us though.
My mom pulled me to the side, concern in her eyes. “Are you going to be alright with him gone?”
“Yes, mom. I’ve made it through the past couple of months while he was in training, didn’t I?” I said.
My mom gave me a sad smile and said, “And if he gets deployed? Will you be fine then?”
I grabbed onto my mom’s hand and tried to muster up a smile that I didn’t feel. “I’ll be fine. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to pull through for Bryce. For the both of us.” She squeezed my hand and leaned in to kiss my cheek. My mom was always so worried about Stephanie and me since dad died. I guess I knew what that felt like at that moment, to worry about someone you loved so much.
After the visit to Florida, we came back to Tennessee. He only had a few more days before he had to fly to Hawaii, where his Seal team was stationed at before getting deployed. We went jet skiing in Pickwick Lake and riding along the back roads that he grew up knowing. We tried our best in making the most of our time together.
I remember that we took a drive down a back road, where he showed me to a secluded lake. The lake was surrounded by big, green trees, cocooning the place in its lush leaves. There was a pier at the edge of the water, and I immediately made my way over to the wooden planks. I stood at the edge of the pier, looking out towards the green forest. The sky was nice and blue, hardly a cloud in sight. There was nothing else around other than the trees. The only sound around the lake was the chirping of the birds, but that was what made the lake gorgeous. I inhaled deeply and sighed it out.
“This is beautiful,” I told Bryce, turning around to face him. He had a beautiful smile on his face, and I couldn’t help but ask, “What?”
He came towards me, wrapped his arms around me and said, “You’re more beautiful than this place, Marley. Maybe at one point in my life, I thought this place was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. But now, I can’t find anything more beautiful than you.” I felt tears sting my eyes, my heart squeezing painfully. He smiled a bit and held me closer to him. He kissed my temples, smoothing my hair back. His phone rang at that moment, and he checked it. He sighed and said, “It’s my commanding officer.”
“You should take that then,” I said. He kissed my forehead and walked off towards the car to take his phone call. I turned around and kicked off my shoes. Then I sat down on the pier and dipped my legs into the cold water. I stared out into space, just swishing my legs back and forth. I didn’t want to think of the future. I didn’t want to think about Bryce leaving. My mind was blank, but my heart was still aching. I didn’t know how long I sat there by myself, but it was for a little while I guess.
Then I heard Bryce’s footsteps, making his way towards me. He sat down beside me, and he looked ahead as well. I turned to look at him, but he didn’t look happy. I frowned and said, “What’s wrong?”
“My commanding officer wants me to report to Hawaii in the morning,” he said, his voice cold.
“You’re kidding me,” I told him. Tears stung my eyes again, and my heart broke into pieces. “That’s not fair!” He turned to me then, wrapping his arms around me. Big sobs wracked my body as I finally succumbed to the pain inside me. Bryce soothed me with his kind words.
“It’s gonna be alright, Marley. Please, don’t cry.” I couldn’t help my tears though. He was leaving in the morning, and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
“It’s not fair,” I told him again, my voice was soft and barely audible.
He leaned back, lifted my chin and said, “I know. I don’t like it either.” He looked at me, then he stroked my face softly. He leaned in and placed his forehead against mine. We both closed our eyes and sighed. Tears were still streaming down my face, and I couldn’t stop them.
“Don’t go,” I whispered to him.
“I wish I didn’t have to,” he said. His voice was just as soft as mine. He leaned back again and looked into my eyes. “Sometimes I wish I could’ve chosen a different occupation, one that allowed me more time with you.”
“Don’t say that, Bryce. You would’ve spent the rest of your life regretting that decision. The last thing I want to see is you bored out of your mind, doing something you don’t want to do.”
“But I would still see you every day. Seeing your face all the time would be worth working behind a desk.” He smiled and grabbed a long piece of my hair and twirled it between his fingers.
I stilled his hand and said, “This is your destiny, and I couldn’t live with myself if you gave this up for me.” Bryce smiled as I giggled a bit despite my tears. “I know I sound cheesy, but it’s true.” I cupped his cheeks and looked deep into his eyes. “I’ll stay strong for you. I’ll try to suck it up.”
He chuckled and shook his head. He pulled me towards him, my back to his chest, and his arms around my shoulders. He entwined our fingers together, and we stayed like that for a while. We talked about the past, memories we either made together or before we met. We laughed, we cried, we made out, and we just talked. I believe we stayed out on that lake until the sun set, and the darkness surrounded us.
We then made our way to his apartment. Jerky greeted us at the door, wagging his tail wildly. Half of Bryce’s apartment was already packed up. The place looked so dull and barren without all the things that used to occupy his apartment. I helped him pack some of his stuff, all with a heavy heart. We didn’t have to pack up much though. He had already gotten all of his other stuff packed, ready to go. His uniforms and his gear were already inside his duffel bags. The rest of his things were already on their way to Hawaii. I stayed with Bryce the entire night, talking some more. We sat outside on his balcony, just taking in the scene of Tennessee together before he left. He sat between my legs, shirtless. I wrapped my arms around him tightly, hoping to hold onto him a little while longer.
“You know, I never thought I was ever going to fall for a military guy,” I told him, giggling a bit.
“Oh, yeah? What kind of guy did you picture yourself with before you met this tall, dark, and handsome stud,” Bryce said with a chuckle.
“I don’t know. I always did have a thing for surfer guys.” When Bryce started feigning a cough, I laughed out loud.
“You’re kidding me, right? Those skinny, tan-lined, radical-saying oafs? Really, Marley?” I couldn’t stop laughing at the expression he had on his face.
“Hey, not all of them are like that. Besides, I may have not been your kind of gal before you fell for me. What, did you dig blonde-haired, blue-eyed, thin waist, with a great rack kind of girls?” He started laughing out loud which caused me to laugh as well.
“Actually I kind of had a thing for laid back, curvy, brunette-haired, brown-eyed, natural beauty women. But then again, I don’t know many women that’s stolen my heart.” He looked up at me in an adorable way, and I couldn’t help but kiss him. I was just about to say something catchy, but Bryce beat me to it. “You know, if I hadn’t come into your life, would you have seen yourself settling down with a wipe-out surfer dude?”
I chuckled and said, “I don’t know. It’s kind of hard picturing another man in my life.”
“So, can you picture yourself settling down with me?” He reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a small velvet box. I gasped as he turned around and kneeled down one knee. He opened the box and showed me a beautiful diamond ring. “Marley, will you marry me?”
Tears spilt onto my cheeks, so touched by his kind and caring heart. “What are you trying to do? Turn me into a blubbering idiot?”
He laughed and wiped my tears with the pad of his thumb. “No, I just have too much of an effect on you. And you still haven’t answered me. Will you marry me, baby girl? Make me the happiest man alive? Make beautiful babies with me and all that other cheesy stuff?” I laughed through my tears at him, lovingly looking into his eyes. This man was willing to make me his wife, and I thought that I was lucky to have him in my life.
“Yes, of course I will,” I answered with a giggle. I kissed him and wrapped my arms around his neck. He carried me in his arms, took me inside, and straight to his bedroom, all without breaking the kiss.
He sat me down on the edge of the mattress, broke away from me and said, “I almost forgot to give you the ring.” He lifted my left hand and slid the ring onto my finger. “There. You’re forever bound to me, woman.” He leaned down, kissed me some more, and laid me down on the bed. He crawled over my body, settling himself comfortably on top of me. That night, we made love. Our emotions were so strong, it nearly broke my heart at how tender they were. Bryce loved me not only with his body, but also with his mind and soul. With every caress, he made the contact seem like he left an imprint of his hands there. Every kiss we shared, every trace of our fingers against each other’s skin, every motion our body made, we shared a piece of our soul. We both kind of showed each other the love we had through our bodies, and that was something I cherished for as long as I can remember.
I had almost forgotten that he was leaving the next morning. I had fallen asleep on his chest the night before, but when I groggily woke up, he wasn’t in bed with me. Instead I found him standing by the bed, looking down at me. He was dressed in his NWUs (Navy Working Uniform), most likely ready to leave.
I sat up and said, “You look like you’ve been up for a while.”
He sat on the bed and said, “Yeah. I didn’t want to wake you because you looked very tired.” He reached out and touched my face. He smiled a sad smile, and I did the same.
“I’ll go get ready,” I told him, getting out of bed. I changed into baggy sweats and a hoodie, wanting to be comfortable even when inside of me, I was not. I pulled my hair back into a ponytail, and I watched as Bryce pulled his bags over his shoulders, his uniform stretching tight against his chest. I helped with taking some of his stuff to the car, and I drove him to the airport. Bryce just kept talking about nonsense throughout the whole ride. He turned on the radio and kept rambling on about either something on the news or singing along with a song playing. He was trying to make our last time together memorable, so it didn’t take long for me to join with venting about some subject we heard on the radio. Then I would sing along with him, laughing at his sometimes off-key voice. At that time, I almost forgot that Bryce was going to get on a plane and fly away to God knows what. Almost.
When we got to the airport, there was a designated area where all the other guys dressed in those navy blue, black, and grey uniforms were at. There were spouses, girlfriends, children, and other family members there, spending as much time with their loved ones before they left. I remembered looking down the whole time, trying not to look at all the sad faces around me. Bryce had one of his arms around my shoulders, pulling me close to him despite the heavy bag on his other shoulder. He introduced me to some of his friends there that day, and that was the first time I met Sam. That was also where I met some of the other spouses and girlfriends of Bryce’s friends. I met Sam’s wife, Hailey that day. She was a very kind woman, and she and I became instant friends. It’s funny how one’s pain can bring people together so easily. We all talked and got to know one another, bonding like old friends.
When it was time for Bryce to leave, I sort of didn’t want to be such a crybaby. I’d been crying the whole day before, so I didn’t want to cry in front of so many people. I also didn’t really want to show Bryce how hurt I felt, how painful it was to see him leave. I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and kept looking down. Bryce came towards me, and I heard him say, “Marley?” I looked up at him, and he was looking at me with a raised eyebrow. I looked over his shoulder and saw the other women and family members hugging and crying. I knew he came to say goodbye; he was leaving. I gulped, trying to fight the tears back.
“I guess this is where we hold each other for what feels like an eternity, me begging you not to go, and you trying to console me. That’s when I cry my eyes out, clinging to your neck and…and…” My sentence drifted off when I choked up. My tears split onto my cheeks, but I refused to sob. Bryce chuckled a bit and came towards me, sweeping me into his arms. I wrapped my arms around his neck, holding on tight. I buried my face into his neck, filling my senses with his familiar scent one last time. He held me really tight, and I felt his heart pounding against my own beating chest. He buried his own face in my neck, breathing as calmly as he could. He pulled back a bit, just enough for us to look at each other. He placed his forehead against mine, and we both closed our eyes. We didn’t say anything; we didn’t need to. My heart was aching, and my head was hurting. Bryce kept holding me tighter with every second that ticked by. We were trying to eliminate all the spaces between us, refusing to let the tiniest gap separate us. We stayed like that for a while, not saying anything.
He sighed heavily, shook his head and said, “I have never questioned anything in my life until now,” he whispered to me.
I leaned back and looked at him. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing,” he said. He looked at me with a lost expression, almost as if he was about to break down. “Why am I always leaving you?” He said that so heartbreakingly, I finally sobbed. I held his face in my hands and placed my forehead against his again.
“Then don’t leave,” I whispered with a shaky voice. He kissed me deeply, pouring his heart out in that kiss. That kiss wasn’t just a kiss. It was a melding of two souls, if you could say that. Nothing else around us existed, like we were the only ones in the world. When he and every other military man and woman in that area was called to board that plane, I steeled myself. He pulled away from me, looked down at me and said, “I love you, Marley.”
“I love you too, Bryce.”
He lifted my left hand and said, “I promise I’ll come back, and I will make you my wife.” He kissed my ringed finger then slowly started to walk away, but not before turning back around and kissing me one last time.